Kyocera hopes to cash in on the growing popularity of push-to-talk (PTT) services with its recently released KX444 model for Verizon Wireless. Based loosely on the company's previous , the CDMA- and analog-roaming-equipped KX440 offers several improvements, including rubberized edges and a speakerphone. Above all, we're talking basics here, as the screen is nothing fancy, and the overall feature set is meager. That said, this sturdy, affordable phone could find a welcome home on the belt of anyone who craves PTT services for voice calls. The Kyocera KX444 is compact for a rugged PTT phone. It weighs just 4.3 ounces and measures a slim 4.49 by 1.93 by 1.1 inches; a stubby antenna adds another inch of length. The shell of the phone is made of hard plastic, but rubber panels on either side make for a comfortable grip. The black-and-gray coloring is pleasant, but there's nothing particularly inspiring about the overall styling. In fact, it almost could be a Nextel phone. We like, however, that the KX444 comes with a sturdy, detachable belt clip.
Although the color display on the KX440 is an improvement over the monochrome screens found on other business-oriented mobiles, we were not terribly impressed by it. At just 1.25 inches diagonally and sporting 4,096 colors, this isn't a device for heavy text messaging (you can't change the font size), Web browsing, or playing games. It is also nearly impossible to read without the backlight on, although it springs to life when you press any key. Overall though, we found the display adequate for navigating contacts and checking if other PTT users are available on the network.
The navigational keys are also hard plastic and are raised above the face of the phone making them easy to use. A four-way, directional toggle helps you scroll through the phone's utilitarian menu system. The toggle also gives one-touch access to the Web browser, your messages, and one user-defined function. Other controls consist of left and right soft keys that double as an OK button and a clear key, respectively. Along the left-hand side of the phone, you will find the volume rocker and the PTT button. A button to turn the PTT speakerphone off and on is easily found at the top of the phone. The backlit keypad buttons are a tad small but are tactile enough for dialing by feel.The Kyocera KX444 is designed primarily to make voice calls, both the traditional way and via a push-to-talk connection. The phone book can store approximately 200 phone numbers with room in each contact for multiple numbers, an e-mail address, a street address, a Web address, and notes. You also can pair contacts with any of 14 polyphonic ring tones and a picture. Be advised, however, that since there's no camera, you must either download pictures or use the simple images already stored on the handset. Regular voice contacts can be grouped into personal or business lists, and as with other mobile phones, a separate phone book holds PTT numbers. Other features included a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, a speakerphone, a tip calculator, voice-activated dialing, a scheduler, a calculator, an alarm clock, and a stopwatch.
Although the KX444's small display limits the device's multimedia appeal, it does support a full range of games and BREW-capable applications. Other than the simple Doodler, it doesn't ship with any games, but the phone's WAP 2.0 wireless browser lets you download whatever you need. That said, while we were able to download and play the mobile version of True Crime, we could barely see our character on the screen. The phone can be personalized with a variety of wallpaper, color themes, sounds, and pictures. More choices and ring tones are available for download.We tested the triband (CDMA 800/1900; AMPS 800) Kyocera KX444 in Manhattan and San Francisco using Verizon's service. The phone consistently found a clear, strong signal, and we could hear callers easily. Speakerphone and PTT calls were also of good quality, but you can't turn on the speaker until after you make a call.
The talk time was a respectable 3 hours, but that is a bit below the rated talk time of 3.3 hours. On standby, the battery held a charge for five days, a full day better than the promised time of four days but a bit low nonetheless. According to the FCC, the KX444 has a digital SAR rating of 1.46 watts per kilogram and an analog SAR rating of 1.36 watts per kilogram.